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August 15, 2011

Wambooli PorchCam 2.0

Filed under: Main — Tags: — admin @ 12:01 am

Wambooli Porchcam

This weekend I put up a new Wambooli PorchCam, completely different from the previous PorchCams. That’s why it’s the 2.0 version.

Overall I’m only somewhat pleased with the new cam, even though it’s not what I expected. First, some history:

Before PorchCam was DrivewayCam, which I set up back in the late 1990s. It was perched high in my office and overlooked our driveway. Because I was on dial-up Internet, the DrivewayCam took a picture only once every 90 minutes and uploaded only a few times a day.

After I moved into town, I set up the DrivewayCam on my front porch. It became the PorchCam. Thanks to broadband Internet, the PorchCam was updated every ten minutes. It was almost live!

I replaced the original PorchCam (and DrivewayCam) camera hardware about four years ago. I got new software, but essentially it was the same gizmo: Take a picture every few minutes and upload it to the PorchCam page.

Still, I’ve always wanted something more for the PorchCam.

So I went out and purchased a Foscam remote control IR camera. Just bought the thing; didn’t know squat about it, other than it has night vision (IR = infrared) and it can be remote-controlled to move left-right and up-down. I thought that was cool.

The Foscam is an IP camera, meaning that it’s basically its own web server. Like other network devices (computers, printers) the Foscam gets its IP address and sits on the local network. It’s wireless, so it can use my Wi-Fi network. That means the camera has only a power cable.

After configuring the camera’s hardware, I set out to find the API, or its programming interface. I was going to write my own software for the thing, tying it directly into the Wambooli web site.

The API was simple to figure out. The programming took me maybe two hours. In no time I had the thing installed on my front porch and turned it on to view it from the Internet.

That’s when disappointment set in.

The good news: The camera works. My webcam software I wrote (in PHP, don’t get all excited) works. I have remote control viewing angles, it seems to update itself properly, and it’s more-or-less secure.

The bad news: The camera’s IR cut-off filter is broken. The image is basically infrared all the time, which means despite the camera’s color CCD you see only an infrared image on the PorchCam page.

The page does take a while to load, which isn’t bad — it’s just predictable: The Internet has to fetch the image from the camera’s web server, which means it has to access my network and where I live is nowhere near any fat Internet pipes.

If Foscam provides a firmware update that fixes the IR cut-off problem, I’ll gladly apply it. Otherwise, I’ll probably look for a similar, better, non-IR camera in the near future. It’s all part of my ongoing quest to dabble with the PorchCam during my downtimes.

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